Studying in Canada is a dream for many students. Hundreds of thousands of students from countries around the world apply for admittance to Canadian educational institutions each year. Canada is in the top three destinations of international students globally.
Not all educational programs require a study permit. The need for a study permit depends on the duration and level of the program you have been accepted into. Any academic, professional, vocational or other education or training that is more than 6 months in duration at a designated learning institution (DLI) in Canada requires a study permit.
Choosing an educational institution
The first step to studying in Canada is to choose a school to study at. When choosing a school in Canada to study at, ensure that you select one that is approved by the Canadian Government. These institutions are known as a Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs).
Any school which is recognized by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) as a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) will have a Designated Learning Institution Number. The school should be able to provide you with this number on request. You will need to provide this Designated Learning Institution Number on your study permit application.
All primary and secondary schools are Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) and do not require a Designated Learning Institution Number.
Studying in Canada without a study permit
Certain individuals can study in Canada without requiring a study permit. The following individuals are exempt from requiring a Canadian study permit:
- You will be studying for 6 months or less, your studies aren’t part of a longer
program and you’ll complete all of your studies within the time we approved you to
stay in Canada.
- You’re a family or staff member of a foreign representative to Canada that has been
accredited by Global Affairs Canada (GAC).
- You’re a member of a foreign armed force on official duties in Canada.
- You have Registered Indian status in Canada.
- Minor children if:
- they’re in kindergarten,
- they’re refugees or refugee claimants,
- their parents are refugees or refugee claimants, or
- they’re in pre-school, primary or secondary school, and they’re already in Canada with a parent who has a work or study permit.
Apply for a Canadian study permit
Once you have chosen an institution, then you need to apply to the program you wish to study. If you meet all of the admission requirements of the educational institution, you will be granted an acceptance letter. An acceptance letter alone is not enough to ensure that you will be allowed to study in Canada. After your application has been received and accepted by the educational institution, you will have to apply for a study permit from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada unless you are exempt from requiring one.
Should you need to obtain a study permit, you will need to submit a number of application forms and supporting documents for yourself and any accompanying family members. Canadian study permit applications can be submitted online.
Accompanying family members
If you are going to be applying to study in Canada, your spouse and dependent children may be eligible to accompany you. They would be required to apply for their own Canadian visas or permits.
If your spouse would like to work in Canada, they may be eligible for an open work permit if you will be a full-time student at one of the following types of educational institutions:
- a public post-secondary school, such as a college or university, or CEGEP in Quebec
- a private college-level school in Quebec
- a Canadian private school that can legally award degrees under provincial law
If you have dependent children (under the age of 22), they can accompany you to Canada. Minor children who are applying from outside of Canada to accompany their parent who will be studying in Canada for 6 months or longer must apply for a study permit.
Minor children who are already in Canada can study without a study permit at the pre-school, primary, or secondary level if at least one of their parents is authorized to work or study in Canada.
When applying for a Canadian study permit, you will be required to submit certain supporting documents as part of your application in addition to having a valid passport or travel document.
The first requirement is an acceptance letter from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI).
Next, you will need to show that you have enough money to cover your first year of tuition, return transportation for you and any accompanying family members as well as your living expenses in Canada. If you cannot prove that you have enough money to cover these expenses, then your application will be rejected. Another important factor to keep in mind for applicants from certain countries is that if there are foreign-exchange control measures in your country, you must provide proof that the exchange control authorities will allow you to export funds for all of your expenses.
Depending on whether you are going study in Quebec, or any other Canadian Province the amount require for your living expenses will vary.
The amount of money required to study in Canada is as follows:
Some applicants will be required to submit a study plan. This would need to include:
- Why you wish to study in Canada in the program for which you have been accepted.
- What your overall educational goal is.
- Why are you not pursuing a similar program in your country of residence.
- What research have you done into studies in your country of residence or citizenship.
- How will the Canadian program enhance your employment opportunities in your country of residence or citizenship.
- What ties do you have to your country of residence or citizenship.
If you want to study in Quebec, you need a certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ) issued by the Gouvernement du Québec. Your school can give you all the details on how to apply for the CAQ.
Applicants may also be required to submit the following:
- Police clearance certificates.
- Proof of completing an immigration medical examination.
- Proof of previously completed education.
- An updated CV.
- Marriage certificate.
- Unabridged birth certificates for minor children.
- Notarized letter of consent for a child who is travelling with only one parent.
- Custodianship declaration for students less than 18 years of age who are not going to be accompanied by a parent.
Working on a study permit
If you are studying in Canada on a study permit it is possible for you to work part time, up to 20 hours per week, while studying in Canada. You can also work full-time during school holidays.
You can work off campus without a work permit if you meet all of these requirements:
- you’re a full-time student at a designated learning institution (DLI),
- you’re enrolled in a post-secondary academic, vocational or professional training program or a secondary-level vocational training program (Quebec only),
- your study program is at least 6 months long,
- your study program leads to a degree, diploma or certificate,
- you’ve already started studying,
- you have a valid Social Insurance Number (SIN).
If you’re a part-time student, you can only work off campus if:
- you meet all of the requirements above, and
- you’re only studying part-time, instead of full-time, because:
- you’re in the last semester of your study program and you don’t need a full course load to complete your program, and
- you were a full-time student in your program in Canada, up until your last semester.
You can’t work off campus without a work permit if any of the following situations apply to you:
- your study permit specifically says that you aren’t authorized to work off campus while you study,
- you’re only enrolled in an English or French as a second language (ESL/FSL) program,
- you’re only taking general interest courses,
- you’re only taking courses required to be accepted into a full-time program.
Post-graduation work permit program (PGWPP)
For some international students, the next step will be obtaining a post-graduation work permit (PGWP).
These are open work permits which are issued to a graduate who meets the following criteria:
- You studied in Canada on a full-time continuous basis in a program that was a minimum of eight months (two semesters) in duration;
- You graduated from a public post-secondary institution, private post-secondary institution, private secondary or post-secondary institution in Quebec which offers qualifying programs of 900 hours or more which lead to a diplôme d’études professionnelles (DEP) or an attestation de spécialisation professionnelle (ASP);
- You are 18 years of age or older when you make your application for the work permit;
- You have a valid Study Permit at the time of making your application;
- You apply for your post-graduation work permit (PGWP) within 90 days of receiving confirmation that you have completed your program.
The duration of your post-graduation work permit (PGWP) is based upon the duration of your completed educational program. If your program was less than 8 months in duration, then you will not be eligible to apply for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP). If your program was between 8 months and less than 2 years in duration, then your permit will be issued for the same duration as your length of studies. If your program was 2 years or longer in duration, then your post-graduation work permit (PGWP) will be issued for up to three years in duration.
It is important to keep in mind that if you have previously been issued with a post-graduation work permit (PGWP) for a previously completed program, you cannot apply for a second post-graduation work permit (PGWP) even if you have completed a new educational program.
Obtaining permanent residence in Canada
If you were eligible, and you obtained a post-graduation work permit of one year or longer, you may be eligible for the Canadian Experience Class depending on the type of work you did while on your work permit in Canada.
Depending on the Province you studied in you may be eligible for a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) which will lead to Canadian permanent Residence. You can refer to the different Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) here.
For some, there may not be any options available to them if they are unable to meet the full criteria of any of the permanent residence streams which Canada offers. In most cases, this will be due to the applicant being too old once they graduate to reach the minimum criteria required as most programs are now points based. Being of a certain age can preclude you from gaining essential points required to meet these criteria. It is important to keep this in mind when looking to study abroad, and to actually calculate if you would be able to meet any of the required criteria once you did graduate to ensure it is worth investing the money to study abroad, or if you will likely need to return home once you graduate.